How's your FICO Score?

Because we live in a computer-driven society, it should come as no surprise that your creditworthiness boils down to one number. Credit reporting agencies use your payment history to compile this score.

The three credit reporting agencies use slightly different formulas to build a credit score. The original FICO score was developed by Fair Isaac and Company. While Experian still calls its score "FICO", TransUnion calls its score "Beacon" and Equifax uses "Empirica." While each of the models considers a range of data available in your credit report, all of the agencies use the following to calculate a score:

  • Your Credit History - How many years have you had credit?
  • History of Payments - Do you have a history of late payments?
  • Credit Card Balances - How many credit card accounts do you hold, and how much do you owe on them?
  • Inquiries on Your Credit - How many times have you had your credit checked for a loan?

These factors are assigned weights based on the formula being used. The result is a single number: your credit score. FICO scores can be as low as 300 and as high as 800. Higher is always better. Most home buyers in the current environment have a score above 620.

Credit scores make a big difference in your interest rate

FICO scores affect more than your ability to get a loan. They also affect your interest rate. Higher scores indicate you are a better credit risk, and thus may qualify for a better mortgage rate.

Can I raise my credit score?

Is there any way to improve your credit score? Despite what you hear from "credit repair" companies, the score is based on your lifelong credit history, so it's not possible to raise it significantly in the short term. (Of course you can and should have incorrect items removed from your credit report.)

Getting your credit score

In order to raise your score, you must have the credit reports that the agencies use to build it. Of course, you need the score as well. Fair Isaac has created a web site (www.myFICO.com) that lets you do just that. It's inexpensive to quickly get your FICO score from all three reporting agencies, along with your credit report. They also provide helpful information and online tools that help you analyze what actions might have the greatest impact on your FICO score.

You can get a free credit report once a year from all three credit reporting agencies by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. While this report does not include a free credit score, the cost to "upgrade" your report to include a credit score is very reasonable.

Now that you have all the facts, you will be a more informed consumer and you'll be better positioned to get the right mortgage for you.

Want to know more about credit scores? Call us at (203) 729-6681.

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